Apologies readers, the blog is a little late this week…
David Adams has been hosting EduTweetOz since Sunday 26/10 and has started some very thoughtful conversations. Here is a little more about him.
Please tell us a little about your background in education. Why did you decide to become involved in education? What are some of the roles you’ve had and what does your current role involve?
As I sat in my year 10 history class I found myself getting excited by what the teacher was showing us. I looked around the class at the other students and the various responses my teacher was receiving. I wondered if they were as interested in the lesson as I was. I chose to observe my teacher for a moment and watch what she did and how she worked. I decided in that class that teaching was something I could do. It just stuck with me since then.
While I was studying education I went on a youth camp where I met with a group of people from Darwin. I really enjoyed their company and felt something calling me to go check out that side of the world. In my final year of teaching I travelled to Darwin and went and volunteered in some of the schools. My friends introduced me to a missionary who had built a school a little further north for Indigenous children. He highly recommended taking a job in a remote school. He said that your first experience of teaching will colour the way you look at education for the rest of your life. He convinced me that there was a lot of value working remote.
I called up the Northern Territory staffing officer and asked if there were any jobs going. A week later I accepted a position in a remote town about 6 hours north west of Alice Springs. I loved it. I loved it immensely and was very saddened to hear that I would have to move on after just one term. I was offered a place that they had not been able to fulfil for some time. It was 8 hours remote along the same dirt road and the community had a number of challenges.
I took on the position and over the course of the year I had worked with several individuals to promote the right for students to learn in their native language, built a language program with community members, helped instigate a meal program, built relationships between the school and the community, acted as principal in my first term, organised and run an excursion into Alice Springs where some students received their first experience of town life, and successfully built up the attendance in my classroom from 1-3 students to a regular number of 20 or more.
Sadly, my Dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer and I returned that year to spend the remainder of his life with him. It was a hard decision, but the right one. That experience has coloured my view of teaching and I am glad for it.
After living off a friend’s generosity I finally took up a position as Youth Worker and Teacher in Religious Education at St Paul’s School in Bald Hills, Brisbane. My role is primarily focussed on the Junior School, but has a lot of connections to Middle and Senior. I get to organise and run chapel services, I get to look after tutor group, run activities, help teachers deal with troubled kids, and generally be on call for a variety of needs. I am still strongly connected with my teaching. I work hard to make my classroom and place where students can bring their questions and ideas and share them openly and honestly.
In my role as teacher this year I have developed and run a leadership course with year 10 and 11 students to develop reflective practices and explore leadership models. I helped organise a book club with other staff where we read a book over the semester and have coffee to discuss its value within our learning environment. I have organised an informal “Teachmeet” for staff to discuss their learning at conferences and over the team. I visited a local school with another teacher to examine how their democratic practices impacts student engagement. And I have been learning and supporting PBL as a learning model within my school
Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?
I love working with the students. I love the challenge of dealing with student engagement, especially in a subject where many students treat the content with suspicion. I love acting as an educational facilitator in my class, trying to show students the path to deeper questioning and intrinsic motivation to learn. But most importantly I love to wrestle with the challenges of education with my friends. The colleagues I have at St Paul’s are real inspirations to me. Nicole Baker, Erin Casablanca, Alan Lihou, Charles Mackenzie-Smith, Bruce Robinson, Kev McVey, and Alana Reville are all expert teachers who I look up to as mentors. Conversing with them over education, getting ideas from them to nurture my classes, building on their wisdom, exploring the future of education keeps me motivated to go into my classroom and work harder and give more than I thought possible.
What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?
We all talk about the pace of life and the uncertainty of what the work place will look like in the future. Yet I am concerned about what community will look like in the future. With the online community broadening we are not yet fully aware of how this will impact our relationships and personal well being. The internet is a wealth of information and entertainment providing instant gratification with seemingly little consequence. This is both a reward and a challenge that interests me.
The reward is the open learning for students and their ability to act globally from their own home. This is incredibly rewarding and can break down barriers to learning, provide opportunity for innovation and creativity, embraces diversity, and can bridge the gap between rich and poor.
But it is this same connectivity that raises some challenges for us as people. We cannot yet conceive as to how our relationships will be affected. We do not yet know how this shift in connectivity will shape our identity as individuals and as community. What does it mean to be human when my life, work, friendships, and relationships are streamed online?
If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?
I would remove education from being a political agenda. Politicians are term limited, and survive on the basis of receiving votes. To do this they inevitably play to where they will get the most public support. This makes education a commodity exchanging rhetoric and polling based agenda for votes . Education is left captive to popular myths and a body of voters who think the best learning is replicating their own experiences from childhood. Education cannot prepare children for the future when used as a commodity for politicians.
What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?
Helping build rhetoric around the future of education. Bringing together the diversity of ideas and perspectives that can challenges us to reimagine education in our classrooms and beyond. I hope that this week I get to experience some of ethos conversations that explore our identity as learners and educators.